Giving ‘Wings’ to life
If life is to be compared to a poem, it is imperative that we go about assuming that all the components are relative to each other. Ultimately, everything in life, however complicated it may see, boils down to love. Love – that brings sunshine to the dullest of hearts, love – that drives away the darkest of clouds, love – that provides one with a reason for living. Epitomised in the verses of poets, etched in the realms of theatre, glorified in the valiant chronicles of mankind; love, with all its supplementary emotions, is universal while at the same time, being highly evasive. And in this highly materialistic world when most of us are unable to even think beyond the word ‘I’, it is always a pleasure to encounter people who still believe and like to lead their lives on this ancient and time-tested quality of the human condition. Rashmi Narzary is one of those very few people left in our midst who likes to believe in love, spread love and make others realise that life without love cannot be termed as life at all.
Born in Golaghat in 1971 as the youngest of three siblings, Rashmi’s childhood was spent travelling throughout Shillong and all over the state of Assam. She had to change quite a few schools due to her father, Girishankar Basumatary’s job postings before she finally matriculated from Little Flower School, Dibrugarh and settled down in Guwahati. A graduate in economics from Cotton College, she got married to Administrative officer, Hemanta Narzary in 1993, just two months after her results were declared with the hope and aim of making his house a home, mother his children and make their home a nest for their children to grow and prosper. And therein began Rashmi’s struggle to tide over the adversities thrown at them by life; the beginning of a prolific literary career; the emergence of her hidden strength, which even she didn’t know existed and all throughout, Rashmi Narzary managed to spread the message of love and compassion, bringing hope to many a heart and convincing them that love still has the power to move mountains.
Rashmi Narzary is a very familiar name in the literary scene of the state for she has been contributing regularly to a number of dailies of the city for quite some time now. However, it is a lesser known fact that she is also a creative poet and artist and holds a post of honour in the International Society of Poets. An active member of Snehalaya and Aarohan, Rashmi has to her credit a collection of short stories and a collection of fictional tales based on the inmates of Snehalaya, Looking Beyond, in which she salutes the courage and fortitude of destitute children, which have helped them survive against all odds. Holding a post of honour in the International Society of Poets, Rashmi’s poems have been published in their coveted coffee table book besides being invited to attend the highly exclusive conventions of the International poetry forum owing to her ‘unique perspective and artistic vision’.
Rashmi is a regular writer for the leading newspapers and periodicals of the region. She says, “My poems were first published in the Assam Tribune while it was The Sentinel where I first started writing my middles. I received massive support from D N Bezborua Sir and till date, I’ am indebted to him for taking out time to guide us”. She continues, “There were simply no airs about him being the editor of such a leading daily. He encouraged us so much that sometimes I think that even he must have been unaware of how much he was helping us”.
A prolific writer, poet and artist, life has been grossly unfair to this talented lady who has always shared a symbiotic relation with other human beings, particularly towards children. Having had to cope with a traumatic miscarriage, and then another and finally coming to terms with the reality is no mean task; it becomes all the more daunting when we are talking about a highly sensitive and emotional person who is always on a constant vigil to ease the sufferings of others. However, she did so and after all the trauma she had to undergo along with the rest of her family comprising of husband Hemanta, daughter Sandy and son Jerry, she still came out, maybe not unscathed but with her faith in the higher power and in love, increasing manifold.
I have always believed that it takes some kind of a major setback in life for us mortals to discover our inherent facets and I have been proved right on quite a few occasions. Rashmi’s story is similar and even more inspiring because it took a tragedy for her to discover the creative writer and poet in her and also to help her forget the pain and count the blessings of the higher power. Though she has been writing poems and painting figurative images ever since she was a toddler, her first poem to be published was Fade, which she had written after her mother expired. It took her another tragedy, this time the untimely and unfortunate miscarriage, to discover the writer in her. The first story she wrote was White Lily, which was written in pained circumstances. As she says, “It was about misfortunes that touched my own life. Months after the traumatic miscarriage, as I poured out my grief onto paper in the form of a story, just to give vent to my lid emotions, it brought about a phenomenal relief and pacification to my agonised self, like a weight off my chest. It helped me cope with the anguish on one hand and count my blessings on the other”. She gradually took to writing more though not always under depressive moods. Rashmi being a highly emotional and sensitive person, which I believe is the hallmark of every creative person, her stories reflect her attitude towards life and others as they deal a lot with destiny, fate and at times, even co-incidence.
In her first collection of short stories, Wings, Rashmi Narzary manages to establish a direct rapport with the reader from the very first story itself and all of her stories strike a chord, somewhere or the other. This is not very difficult to comprehend for her stories deal with everyday life in contemporary society and stirs up feelings and sentiments which everyone can relate to. From ethnic riots to human relationships; from humour to tragic misfortunes, her stories have touched it all. The locales keep on changing but the stories are all similar for the emotions that they evoke are universal. The collection begins with ‘The War Within’ which is a love story based in an abstruse locale. She immediately follows it up with ‘Dawn after the Nightmare’, which is again based in a familiar setting and vastly different from the previous one in the sense that it deals with the sensitive subject of ethnic riots. Her deep understanding of human relationships is evident in stories like, ‘Of Human Intentions’, while Majuli has always remained her favourite subject. After reading her stories, one has to commend her on her power of observation for most of the stories are based on day to day happenings but it is her singular take on these events, which makes it so interesting.
Her second book, Looking Beyond, which is a chronicle of the tragic and real-life incidents of the inmates of Snehalaya was released on the occasion of the orphanage’s sixth anniversary. With Looking Beyond, she gave the children of Snehalaya, the best gift that they could have ever hoped to receive apart from their materialistic needs. Though a work of fiction, the book has been inspired by the stories of the children at the home. Every chapter is touching and the book is a kind of children’s memoirs, narrating how they landed up in the orphanage. Elucidating on the book, Rashmi says, “While writing the book, I had heard the story of each and every inmate of Snehalaya. I had also spent a great deal of time with each child, trying to understand how his or her young and innocent mind has been brutalised by life’s harsh experiences”. She further added, “I have thoroughly enjoyed writing the book. I will always cherish the time I spent with the children”.
Striving to decipher the vast desolation of silence and depravity is – as Rashmi Narzary has us so emphatically experience – a ‘difficult’ journey, to say the least. In most of her poems, she manages to provide a heart-breaking examination of all that is born bright but becomes dark and desperate within silence, including perspectives of a mother, a child and of a sensitive human being. Most of her poems feature an arrestingly intimate and dark voice, which to Rashmi’s credit, works to express the depth of the mother-child connection. This strain is materialised in both emotional and physical terms, with both tenderness and hostility. And though the strain undertakes many forms, it always ends with the glimmer of hope. This can be best summed up in the comments of one of her readers who said, “Personality beautifully and vividly generalized; Pathos so well spread that the pinch is perished but the effect carried over for ages to feel it. You will have many occasions, for where there is dark, its’ to remind us that there is something called light, we will see it!” The hallmark of her writings is definitely her strong communication skills, which is intensely personal, and this fuels its lyrical quality to which Rashmi is so skillfully attuned. The poignant, yet resounding note of clarity is a satisfying weight to level the emotional scale of the collected poems. Her poems are a stark, confessional recount of separation and hurt, stirring the child in all of us to consider the depth of love, flesh and blood.
As a reader, it is very important to me that the story or the poem, which I’ am reading, makes an emotional connection. The emotional range of a book and its ability to relate to the reader is all that I search for in a book. But to get that effect, it is of utmost importance to scratch beneath the surface and experience the emotions first. Rashmi Narzary’s works have a wide emotional range, possessing the capability to bring tears of joy and sadness in the eyes of the reader. A very sensitive person, every aspect of her familial life is enveloped in love. Her love for her family, immortalised in simple acts like the story behind naming her children, carefully preserving Sandy and Jerry’s first paintings along with countless other small instances says it all. Maybe it is an extension of her childhood when her mother used to keep egging her to write more poems, “Ma used to be very enthusiastic about my poems. Whenever I used to write anything, she used to switch on the tape and all of us used to sing the poem together”. Her family is the perfect model of a happy family, which these days, adorn only the pages of fables and fairy tales. The bonding between them is unbreakable, to say the least. From being the perfect house maker to finding time for her own literary and artistic pursuits must get very frustrating, “Well, not frustrating but it surely gets exhausting at times. Though, I seriously believe that my role is of utmost importance to keep the balance of my house for no one else can fill in for me. And anyway, if I cannot give my family time now, when they need it most, when will I do that? Hemant works very hard and if he and the children have to come home to a maid open the door for them, then what is the use of my being there?”
One of her short stories, Kaushalya, will be made into a feature film shortly to be produced by the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) and to be directed by Rajni Brahma of Anuraag fame. Fashion designer Dipankar Kashyap has also used a few of her stories for his to be telecast television serial, Someone, Somewhere. The writer who helped co-edit and co-ordinate the souvenir of the Kaziranga Centenary Celebrations is working on her third book which is based on the earlier generation’s closeness with nature. Elaborating on the book, she informs, “The book is based on the experience of my husband and uncles who has had a very rural upbringing. This is basically a narrative of how they grew up; stealing jackfruits, riding by-cycles. They shared a closeness with nature which today’s generation does not have and the book will be a collection of stories based on these settings”. She adds, “I won’t be presenting it as events of the past but more as present day happenings”.
And for those who think that life is but a question of just awards and accolades, then I just hope that Rashmi’s life and her story manages to dispel the many myths that have accumulated in their thoughts and thought patterns. We came to this world stark naked and will leave in a similar fashion. In this brief physical interlude, what really matters is the amount of love that we have been able to spread amongst our near and dear ones. That is the greatest of all achievements bringing joy, which no award or commendation can ever give.